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Planet of Fire

Production Code: 6Q

First Transmitted

1 - 23/02/1984 18:40

2 - 24/02/1984 18:40

3 - 01/03/1984 18:40

4 - 02/03/1984 18:40

Plot

On holiday in Lanzarote, a young American girl named Peri narrowly escapes drowning when she is rescued from the sea by Turlough and taken into the TARDIS to recover. The Doctor is on the island because the TARDIS has detected a mysterious signal being transmitted from an unknown artifact retrieved from the sea bed by Peri's stepfather, Howard Foster.

The Master reasserts his control over Kamelion and gets it to bring the TARDIS, along with the Doctor, Turlough and Peri, to the planet Sarn, where he is hoping to use that world's supply of revitalising numismaton gas to restore his body - accidentally shrunken in an experiment with his tissue compression eliminator weapon - to its correct size.

It transpires that amongst the Sarn natives, who worship a fire god named Logar, are political prisoners from Trion - Turlough's home world. Turlough too is revealed to be a political refugee. He meets his brother and later, when a spaceship arrives from his home world, discovers that Trion has granted an amnesty to all political prisoners.

The Master is apparently killed when a stream of numismaton gas in which he is bathing turns to a normal hot flame. The Doctor destroys Kamelion at the robot's own bidding as it has become completely unstable. Turlough leaves to return to Trion, while Peri goes with the Doctor.

Episode Endings

The TARDIS arrives on the planet Sarn and the Doctor and Turlough venture outside, leaving Peri in the control room with, apparently, her stepfather Howard Foster. The latter is really a disguised Kamelion, however, and after closing the TARDIS doors he transforms into an image of the Master. Peri asks who he is, and he replies: 'I am the Master, and you will obey me.'

The Kamelion-Master exhorts the people of Sarn to sacrifice the 'unbelievers' amongst them by throwing them into the flames of a furnace. The Doctor, who is one of those to be sacrificed, is seemingly powerless to prevent this.

Peri takes refuge in the Master's TARDIS. She sees a box on the floor and, lifting the lid, is shocked to find inside it the miniaturised form of the Master. He tells her: 'You escaped from my slave, but you will obey me - or die.'

The Doctor accedes to Peri's request to be allowed to travel with him and, as the TARDIS lurches violently in flight, welcomes her aboard.

Roots

References to Judaism (the penalties that await trespassers on the holy Mountain of Fire) and Christianity (the messianic 'Outsider', Timanov's reference to oblation, and the Doctor postulating on the Master's desire to be 'born again').

Von Daniken.

She.

Dune.

Dialogue Triumphs

Kamelion-Master : "I am the Master!"

Peri : "I'm Perpugilliam Brown, and I can shout just as loud as you can!"

Timanov : "You will never understand, Amyand. Logar is everywhere. He cares for the faithful."

Turlough : "I don't want to go, Doctor. I've learnt a lot from you."

Double Entendre

"I don't know how long it'll be before the next emission."

Continuity

The Doctor for once has some coins on him, but they're alien. He briefly dons his half moon spectacles (see Frontios).

Peri (Perpugilliam) Brown is a young American student, holidaying with her mother and archaeologist step father, Professor Howard Foster, on Lanzarote. Peri's summer studying includes an ecology project. She has exams coming up, and her return flight is to New York.

Turlough is from Trion, and was on the losing side in the planet's civil war. His father and brother Malkon were exiled to Sarn, where the Trions sent occasional prisoners. Such prisoners were branded with the Misos triangle, and the indigenous population heralded them as leaders chosen by Logar, their fire god. Turlough's father died when the spacecraft crashed. The volcanic forces of Sarn were for a while kept in check by Trion scientists.

Vislor Turlough - his rank is Junior Ensign Commander, identification code VTEC9/12/44 - was sent to public school on Earth, where a Trion agent 'an eccentric solicitor in Chancery Lane' took care of arrangements. Turlough states that the Trions have agents on every civilised planet, including an agrarian commissioner on Vardon and a tax inspector on Darvey. When Turlough makes contact with Trion to enable the people of Sarn to be evacuated he is relieved to find that political prisoners are no longer persecuted.

The volcanic activity on Sarn which will soon destroy the planet also produces numismaton gas, 'an immensely rare catalytic reagent' with great healing properties (see The Brain of Morbius). Despite his 'reduced circumstances', the Master is able to regain partial control of Kamelion. The Doctor says that he thinks that the Master's body will be good for a few years yet, but the Master appears to die in flames at the end of the story. [The Master screams 'Would you show [no] mercy to one of your own ', referring to their shared biology as Gallifreyans or status as Time Lords.]

[The presence of the device containing the Trion distress signal in a sunken wreck that is said to be similar to 'your English Mary Rose' is not explained, and neither is the reason for the Master's familiarity with it.] Under his instructions, Kamelion lands the TARDIS at Lanzarote, where the device is being brought up to the surface, and the Master then follows the Doctor to Sarn.

It seems possible that the Trions were aware of the properties of numismaton gas and laid a complex 'trail' for it: the Master says that he has travelled billions of light years through time and space to arrive at Sarn. The Master removes the temporal stabiliser from the Doctor's TARDIS, rendering it inoperable (see Time Flight: 'Another old trick of the Master's') Kamelion also removes the comparator (which is full of silicon chips and resistors!), another vital circuit.

QV

Shrinking

Location

Lanzarote, [1980s: possibly 1985 as the Doctor in the next season threatens to return Peri to tht year].

Sarn.

Links

Trivia

Peter Wyngarde, better known as cult icon Jason King in the eponymous ITC series and its Department S forebear, appears here as the Sarn elder, Timanov.

The Doctor wears a variation on his usual costume, with different trousers and - initially - a waistcoat.

Goofs

Peri is dry by the time Turlough brings her into the TARDIS.

The Doctor asks Amyand and Sorasta about Logar, despite having never heard the name before.

Peri can override the Master's control of Kamelion, but the Doctor can't.

If the Master's gun is a Tissue Compression Eliminator, why does it compress Kamelion and the radiation suits? (Peri seems to be able to out-run its blast in episode three.)

Cast & Crew

Cast

The Doctor - Peter Davison

Peri - Nicola Bryant

Turlough - Mark Strickson

Voice of Kamelion - Gerald Flood

Amyand - James Bate

Curt - Michael Bangerter

Lomand - John Alkin

Lookout - Simon Sutton

Malkon - Edward Highmore

Professor Howard Foster - Dallas Adams

Roskal - Jonathan Caplan

Sorasta - Barbara Shelley

The Master - Anthony Ainley

Timanov - Peter Wyngarde

Zuko - Max Arthur

Crew

Director - Fiona Cumming

Assistant Floor Manager - Robert Evans

Costumes - John Peacock

Designer - Malcolm Thornton

Film Cameraman - John Walker

Film Editor - Alastair Mitchell

Incidental Music - Peter Howell

Make-Up - Elizabeth Rowell

Producer - John Nathan-Turner

Production Assistant - Claire Hughes Smith

Production Associate - June Collins

Script Editor - Eric Saward

Special Sounds - Dick Mills

Studio Lighting - John Summers

Studio Sound - Scott Talbott

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Peter Howell

Visual Effects - Chris Lawson

Writer - Peter Grimwade

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

Peri comes across very well in her first story: she is given some good lines (e.g. comparing the statue of Eros to Elton John) and therefore, despite the bikini scenes, is more than a mere dumb broad. Shame it couldn't last. As a whole the story is less than the sum of its parts: not a great deal happens, but it is competently written, and the location filming is excellent.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

As someone once rather cynically observed, Planet of Fire is not so much a story as a series of explanations. Peri is introduced; the Master is brought back for a further return appearance; Kamelion is destroyed; Turlough's background is at last revealed; and finally Turlough is written out. This overloading of the scripts - which is even more extreme than that required of the luckless writer Peter Grimwade in his previous Doctor Who assignment, Mawdryn Undead - probably accounts in large part for the drubbing that the story has received from most reviewers.

'The worst story of the season so far,' wrote Robert Davis in Skonnos Issue 7 in 1984. 'Planet of Fire had a lot to offer, and looking at what [it] had to include you would think this would be an action packed story. Suffice to say [you] would be sadly mistaken! The first three episodes were total padding, and could have been easily condensed down to a singe episode, making the story an acceptable two-parter.' These criticisms, although not untypical of those directed at the story, are far too harsh. Given all the imposed prerequisites, including the need to incorporate the Lanzarote location, the end result is by no means as bad as it might have been.

The plot involving the inhabitants of the volcanic planet Sarn is actually quite an interesting one even if, with all the other elements eating up screen time, it is rather less well developed than one might have liked. 'The breadth of the community on Sarn is enhanced by the supporting characters,' noted Jane Killick in In-Vision Issue 75, dated November 1997. 'Even those with only a small part in the story have distinct personalities. Roskal, for example, has few lines but those he does have demonstrate his interest in the technology left by the Trions and in learning how to use it. It is enough to show how the community has been held back by the old teachings, represented by Timanov, and how they have the capacity to advance. The Doctor says as much to Amyand, who has emerged as a character with strong leadership qualities. The story of the Sarns, therefore, is of a people ready to abandon their old, primitive ways and prosper in a new life away from the planet.'

Another point in this story's favour is that the location filming in Lanzarote is a lot more appropriate than was that in Amsterdam for Arc of Infinity - although it is perhaps a pity that it is used to represent both Sarn and Lanzarote itself, as it is immediately obvious to the viewer that the sequences have all been shot in the same place.

Tim Munro, writing in TARDIS Volume 9 Number 1 in 1984, drew attention to some other redeeming features: 'Turlough's origins were cleverly revealed and all tied up perfectly with the little we were told about him in Mawdryn Undead. The concept of the shrunken Master was inspired to say the least, as was the battle for control of Kamelion... Mark Strickson was superb and I am furious that we've lost him so soon. What a waste!... Anthony Ainley had possibly the worst dialogue in history but being Anthony Ainley he put in a great effort, made it believable and livened up an otherwise tedious story.'

In fact it is remarkable just how much more imposing and dangerous Anthony Ainley's Master (or strictly speaking the Kamelion-Master) seems when wearing an ordinary business suit in this story as opposed to his standard 'penguin' outfit. He really does put one in mind of Roger Delgado in these scenes, making all the more regrettable the production team's apparent determination to have him usually presented as something akin to a moustache-twirling pantomime villain. (Visitors to the studio for this story actually recall Ainley giving a very intense, serious performance during recording of one particular scene and receiving firm instructions from the control gallery to go 'more OTT' - i.e. over the top - for a retake.)

The other members of the guest cast all give good performances, although the distinguished Barbara Shelley is somewhat wasted in the minor role of Sorasta. Best of all is Peter Wyngarde as Timanov, as Steve Mercer affirmed in Shada 18, dated July 1984: 'Top honours for this story must go... to Peter Wyngarde, oozing faith, fire and fanaticism [in] a quite brilliant performance... He, by himself, made the worshippers of Logar seem real, an authentic culture. His final scene, offered a chance of salvation and reconciliation by Amyand and rejecting it rather than his faith, was easily the most memorable of the whole story... If only every guest star gave such good value.'

Nicola Bryant makes a good debut as Peri, helping to compensate for the viewer's disappointment at the loss of the excellent and rather underused Turlough. In fact, notwithstanding the light-hearted closing scene between the Doctor and Peri in the TARDIS, the story as a whole ends on a rather downbeat note. 'Generally speaking [it] left me feeling quite sad,' observed Robert Craker, again in TARDIS Volume 9 Number 1, 'after the Doctor's reluctant destruction of poor old Kamelion (to the delight of most fans, I dare say) who had been well used throughout..., and finally the Doctor's refusal to help the trapped Master, leading to what would appear to be his final demise... It can't be though, can it? The final encounter between the two Time Lords would surely be something more momentous.'

< Resurrection of the DaleksFifth DoctorThe Caves of Androzani >

This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.



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